Decades ago, London suffocated under poisonous smogs. Now, deadly air is back!

Last week PRI’s Living on Earth aired an interview talking about London and the deadly smoke. The older generation will still remember the deadly “pea-soupers” of 1952 sometimes called “The big Smoke” lasting from December 5th till December 9th what killed according to Government medical reports 12,000 people as a direct result of the smog and 100,000 more were made ill by the smog’s effects on the human respiratory tract. This was a severe air-pollution event caused by a period of cold weather, combined with an anticyclone and windless conditions, collected airborne pollutants – mostly arising from the use of sulfur laden coal. In that time the smog was visible today the smog is caused by diesel- burning vehicles which emit large amounts but invisible pollutants like nitrogen dioxide what causes heart attacks and strokes. James Thornton said in this interview: ” In 2009, when our organization sued the government, we first wrote “a very polite letter, as one does in Britain,” asking the government how it intended to come into compliance with the law. “They wrote back and said, ‘We intend to do absolutely nothing,’” Thornton says. “We know we have to come into compliance by 2010, but we won’t come into compliance until at least 2025, and maybe later,'” Thornton says the government wrote. “That was a surprising letter to receive, so we then had to go to court, and … take it all the way up to the Supreme Court.”. Today conditions in London have become so bad that London Lord Mayor Sadiq Khan now suggests children should be given gas masks to protect their lungs. A very pragmatic way to act on the danger of air pollution, isn’t it?

By European Law the hourly levels of toxic nitrogen dioxide must not exceed 200 micro grams per cubic meter more than 18 times a year. Thursday 5th Brixton Road in Lambeth managed to break the annual limit in just 5 days. Does not really wonder if you know that streets like Putney High Street exceeded this limit 1200 times in 2016. NO2 pollution causes 5900 early deaths each year in London only. Britain has been in breach of EU nitrogen dioxide limits since 2010 and Europe started to escalate actions against UK but that comes a bit to late. Now with Brexit in front of the door the UK will be not any longer be bound by EU laws. Brexit was triggered by the immigration crises in Europe and fear of terrorism. How many UK citizen were killed by terrorists or by immigrants? Air pollution kills worldwide more people than AIDS and malaria combined but but you just accept that London becomes one of the most polluted cities in the world, you accept that thousands of people die year by year, you accept that tomorrow your kids needs a gas mask when they leave the house! Just go on like that and bury your heads in the sand – the price for it your kids will have to pay.

5 replies
  1. jared
    jared says:

    Interesting…We were told to buy diesel cars because they are more environmentally friendly, now they put new charges on diesel cars, because they are not. We were told to use wood-burning stoves because they are less harmful to the planet, and now we are told that they are not. Everything common people do to make their life comfortable is bad to the environment. But isn’t it the industry which should be blamed for air pollution in the first place? Sure not… It is bringing money to the politicians’ pockets. How it can be blamed for something bad???

  2. arwen
    arwen says:

    Not consumers should be blamed for buying cars which are polluting air, but manufacturers should be made to take seriously the emissions laws.

  3. johnburt571
    johnburt571 says:

    Now drivers of old diesel cars are offered cash incentives for switching to a more environmentally friendly car (up to 2000£). Old diesel cars are banned to enter high-polluting hotspots, or they are charged to enter those areas. Seems UK is trying to tackle air pollution problem as soon as it is possible.


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